Abortion reforms: fate close

THE fate of proposed abortion reform laws could be decided in a series of briefings tomorrow.

Health Minister Michelle O'Byrne said she was hopeful a number of hesitant MLCs could be convinced to support the reforms after the briefings, which will be given by experts both for and against the legislation.

As it stands, the Reproductive Health Bill appears likely to get just seven votes - one shy of the majority needed to pass.

Ms O'Byrne, who sponsored the legislation as a private member's bill in the lower house, said she hoped a briefing from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and minor amendments to the conscientious objection clause, as drafted by some MLCs, may get the legislation over the line.

``We have seen Legislative Councillors change their vote on the floor of the house before,'' Ms O'Byrne said.

If passed in its current form, the bill would decriminalise abortion, require two doctors to find that a woman requesting to terminate her pregnancy after 16 weeks' gestation needed to do so to avoid risk of physical or psychological harm, and require a doctor who has a conscientious objection to abortion to refer on patients who request the procedure.

It would also introduce line-of-site access zones to prevent protests outside abortion clinics. 

Ms O'Byrne said the legislation was not intended to decide whether or not women could have an abortion, as that was decided in Tasmanian law in 2002.

``I would urge all of the Legislative Councillors to put emotional issues aside and look at it in terms of a framework that's required to provide legal, safe access to abortion, which is something the Tasmanian Parliament voted to allow 10 years ago,'' she said. Ms O'Byrne said any attempt to restrict access to abortion beyond the existing law would fail.

``I would be horrified that any parliament would undo progress made more than 10 years ago, and I don't think it would be acceptable to both houses of parliament,'' she said.

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